February 12, 2007

Rand McNally

And the men behind the brand are...
William Rand and Andrew McNally

William Rand learned his printing in the eastern United States; Andrew McNally learned his printing in Ireland. They teamed up in frontier Chicago in 1858, announcing "every description of printing on the most advantageous terms."

That first decade the two men decided to concentrate their printing and publishing efforts in the field of transportation. The first sales division of the fledgling firm was railroad printing. Railroads went into places before cities and people needed tickets to get there so the young printers found plenty of customers. They published literary works on railroad timetables to give riders something to read on the train.

In 1868, the year the firm officially became Rand McNally & Company,
Chicago was rapidly becoming the unofficial printing and engraving capital of the nation. Rand McNally published its first book in 1870, The Business Directory of Chicago for 1870-1871, and the following year brought out the first edition of the "Western Railway Guide." The "Guide" was a monthly periodical listing the latest timetables of various railway and steamboat lines.

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 devastated the city. As flames licked the doors of their offices Rand and McNally ran a relay race to safety with two ticket printing machines. Rand hauled them to McNally's stable three miles away and McNally carted the machines to the shore of Lake Michigan where he dumped them in the sand.

Three days later they were back in business in rented space.

In 1872 Rand McNally took out a small advertisement announcing its entry into the map engraving field. The huge growth of railroads had created a tremendous demand for maps. There were many other map manufacturers at the time but Rand McNally innovated modern methods of engraving in wax to accelerate correction work. This single technique was responsible for their emergence
in the map field. Rand McNally was able to draft and correct maps at a fraction
of previous costs.

Railroad maps were given away by the thousands to promote train travel,
many railroads distorting their own routes to display their superiority over rival lines. Rand McNally printed many maps in Swedish and Norwegian which no doubt contributed to the Scandanavian settling of the west.

In 1876 Rand McNally published its first Business Atlas which became the backbone of the firm's dominant map business. Rand retired from the business in 1899 and McNally died in 1904, just as the country's demand for road maps would indelibly stamp their names on American travel.

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